When to Pet the Cat

When it comes to petting the cat, timing is important. Just like us, the cat might be busy with something when we want to pet them, and this can lead to hurt feelings all around. Look to see if the cat is in the mood to give affection, and then we won't feel rejected.

This is not a time to pet the cat.

RJ is intent on his toy. There's also the positions of his paws and the fact that his tail is twitching. He is up, intent, crouching. If we go to pet him now we are interrupting his concentration.

He won't necessarily mind. I can come over and divert his attention at such an important time, but I should only do it for concerns which are important.

I could be about to start the vacuum cleaner. He wouldn't mind a little advance warning of that.

Or it's treat time; that's always a good time for a break.

But for petting? Done too often, that would be inconsiderate.

Here, RJ is pausing. His body is not alert for action, but relaxed into the floor, and his tail is lying flat on the floor as well.

He's waiting for the next interesting thing.

We could be that interesting thing.

Another important petting factor in whether they have time for us is how we initiate the petting session. One of those lightning blitzes when we decide to pour a big demonstration into a little bit of time is fine when we are leaving the home. But getting scooped up from whatever they were doing without a lot of payoff is not the best way for them to experience our affection.

If we do not want to get into a big production at the moment, we can verbally engage them, or we apply the art of Petting In Place, or PIP. The fact that RJ is resting, but among his toys, makes this an excellent time to rub his face, scritch behind his ears, or whatever little attention he appreciates. Then we part, both refreshed from our affection encounter, yet not diverted from immediate concerns.

When does the cat signal they want to be engaged? When they are taking it easy in one of their favorite places. This is another great time to practice our PIP without dislodging them from comfortable arrangements.

If their special place is in our chair or near our favorite spot on the couch, they are doing this on purpose. They want to know if we are smart enough to pick up this cue. Show them we are by petting them, and if they respond, then pick them up.

It is good to seek out the cat and learn all their favorite places. This lets us seek them out when they need reassurance. We can also give them a verbal acknowledgment that it's okay for them to be there. This "blessing of the place" lets them feel even more secure in their special spots.

Remember that older female relative who pinched the cheeks of all the children in the family? Or would shriek when she saw us, interrupting whatever we were doing to be swept up in a dizzying hug?

Don't be that person in the cat's life.

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